White Sox drop finale to Angels
Erstad homers but Buehrle surrenders pair of long balls
CHICAGO -- On-field results and a challenging April schedule didn't exactly set a championship tone for the 2007 season, as the White Sox had hoped. Then again, there certainly isn't any reason to abandon postseason aspirations as May approaches.
In fact, Darin Erstad provided a very accurate depiction of Chicago's first month of action following a 5-2 loss to Los Angeles before Sunday's sellout crowd of 38,513 at U.S. Cellular Field.
"Survival," said Erstad, who had two more hits in the series finale, extending his hitting streak to seven games and giving him six hits in the weekend series against his former team.
"Obviously, this team can play a lot better," the center fielder added. "But we didn't dig ourselves a huge hole, and when you are not playing well, you need to [not] do that."
Erstad gave the White Sox (12-11) a 2-0 lead in the third inning with his second home run of the season. The two-run shot on a full-count offering from Angels starter Kelvim Escobar (2-1) came three batters after Alex Cintron's single to right.
Unfortunately for the White Sox, their sputtering offense could only manage two more hits off Escobar during his 7 2/3 innings of work. And for the second straight day, the South Siders couldn't touch closer Francisco Rodriguez, who recorded his eighth save after pitching a perfect 1 1/3 innings of relief.
This recurring lack-of-offense theme prevented Mark Buehrle (2-1) from picking up his 100th career victory and from becoming the fifth player in franchise history to win all 100 solely with the White Sox. Buehrle didn't have no-hit stuff on Sunday in his first home start since making history against Texas on April 18.
Gary Matthews Jr. ended Buehrle's string of 11 1/3 consecutive no-hit innings at home with a third-inning bloop single. But it was a two-run fourth for the Angels, featuring back-to-back home runs from Maicer Izturis and Vladimir Guerrero, which still bothered the southpaw well after A.J. Pierzynski bounced back to Rodriguez for the game's final out.
"You want to go out there and go off how the game is going," said Buehrle, who allowed three runs on nine hits over six-plus innings, matching a season high with eight strikeouts during his fourth straight quality start. "If you get five or six runs in the first, it's more relaxing. If the other pitcher is throwing zeroes, you have to go out and match him.
"We go out and score two runs, and I know our offense is struggling. We go out and put up two runs against a guy like Escobar and I give it right back up. It's kind of uncalled for."
Izturis singled home Orlando Cabrera with the go-ahead run in the fifth after Cabrera had singled and was successful on the first stolen-base attempt against Buehrle this season. The Angels (14-11) added two insurance runs in the ninth off Bobby Jenks courtesy of Erick Aybar's seeing-eye single to right.
The three-run lead actually could have been four or five if not for the slick seventh-inning defense of left fielder Ryan Sweeney, who flew in from Charlotte on Sunday morning. With runners on second and third and nobody out, Cabrera hit a fly ball toward the line off reliever David Aardsma.
The ball looked as though it was going to fall in, scoring two, but Sweeney made a diving, sliding catch for the first out. Reggie Willits tagged up and scored, but home-plate umpire Adam Dowdy ruled that Willits left early for the inning's second out. Aardsma struck out Aybar to escape unscathed.
"Actually, I thought I would get under it," said Sweeney of his highlight-reel effort. "It kept slicing toward the line. I was just trying to catch it and get it back in to stop the runner from going from second to third."
Chicago put the leadoff hitter on base in the fourth (Paul Konerko reaching on a two-base error), the sixth (an Erstad single) and the seventh (a Pierzynski single). But Escobar used two double plays to help him avoid any sort of potential trouble.
If it wasn't for the long ball and Erstad, Chicago's offense would have been nonexistent during this series. Erstad raised his average to .261, and has another chance to face his old team next weekend in Anaheim.
"It's always fun and a little nicer when you play against former teammates, but I don't think he has to show them anything. They know what kind of player he is," said manager Ozzie Guillen of Erstad. "This kid is a warrior, a bulldog. I guarantee he would play against anyone the same way. He's a competitor and knows how to play the game."
"Honestly, I treat every game exactly the same, and have the same respect for every other team," added Erstad, answering the Angels question for the final time of the weekend. "That's how you remain consistent in your approach, regardless of who you are playing -- whether you are facing the best or worst team."
Currently, the White Sox are somewhere in between the best and the worst. They sit four games off last year's pace and, surprisingly, have a 5-7 record at home. The players believe it's only a matter of time before they start hitting, and they collectively hope that time comes on Tuesday, in Seattle.
"Things will turn around and we will be just fine," Erstad said.
"With [Jim] Thome and [Scott] Podsednik out, it's one of those things where we have to tread water and try to battle until they get back." Buehrle added. "If we do that, we'll be all right. But we are barely over .500, so the month was pretty [lousy]."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.